Two WPI students working in a lab

NECHE Accreditation Process Seeks Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Input

What has changed at WPI since the university’s last accreditation?
January 13, 2021

Every 10 years WPI undergoes a comprehensive reaccreditation by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), culminating in an evaluation by a visiting team of administrators and faculty from peer institutions. One of the most critical components of the WPI accreditation process is to engage faculty, staff, and alumni on how the university has changed in the last decade, and their thoughts on its future.

“WPI Accreditation is important because it helps students see that the university has high academic standards, and assures prospective employers of the validity of our programs of study and that our graduates are qualified,” says Emily Perlow, associate dean of students. “It involves faculty and staff in self evaluation and planning, and creates goals for institutional self-improvement.”

The university is sending out a separate survey to seek input from students for the self-study portion of the NECHE assessment.

Additionally, accreditation provides a basis for determining eligibility for federal student assistance. Students must attend an accredited institution to apply for federal grants or loans.

The self-study portion of NECHE’s accreditation process provides a “concise picture of the institution as a dynamic entity with a sense of its history, an understanding of its present, and a vision of its future,” according to NECHE’s website. “By clearly identifying strengths and challenges, the institution demonstrates its ability to use analysis for improvement.”

Art Heinricher, dean of undergraduate studies, says it is important to gather input on how the university has changed, including its accomplishments, in meeting accreditation standards over the last 10 years and where we should focus our energies for the next 10 years.

While there is a committee composed of faculty, staff, and administrators compiling information required by NECHE—the final report will be about 200 pages—members of the committee may not know about, or may inadvertently overlook, an accomplishment or other development in the university’s last decade. Staff and faculty across campus almost certainly have additional insights to add.

Faculty and staff are invited to use their WPI login here to read about the NECHE accreditation process and answer three questions reflecting on WPI’s past and future. This feedback will help inform the self study. There will also be an opportunity later this spring for community members to provide input on the draft self-study report.

“We want to ensure we capture a myriad of stories and accomplishments over the last decade,” Heinricher says. “We want every voice to be heard. This should be a comprehensive process. We don’t want to leave important stories out.”

NECHE accreditation indicates that an institution of higher education meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of institutional quality applied though a peer review process. An accredited college or university is one that has the necessary resources to achieve its stated purposes through appropriate educational programs, and gives reasonable evidence that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Institutional integrity is also addressed through accreditation.

“What the self study shows is that we’ve taken community input,” Perlow says. “We want to capture the stories that have shaped WPI over the last decade, and that necessitates input from the entire community.”

More information about accreditation is available at the Department of Education.

-Martin Luttrell